Should You Consider Doing A Deadlift Alternative?

February 18th 2020

If you are running 5/3/1 BBB, 5x10 deadlift might seem daunting and you might be looking for a deadlift alternative.

But I am here to tell you otherwise.

If you are truly not able to do deadlifts for any program, I could really only see these two situations being used:

  • You are injured and cannot deadlift pain-free
  • You are being too soft

And I am assuming you are not injured.

As a result, you need to accept that your workouts will be that more challenging.

So, let us go over how you can overcome this mental hurdle of looking for a deadlift alternative when you are afraid to commit to 5/3/1 BBB.

5/3/1 Deadlift Alternative

If you are doing 5/3/1, you should not be looking for a deadlift alternative for whatever reason.

You should be looking for ways to eliminate your mental confusion and to establish confidence in the program.

You are making excuses

If you are perfectly able to deadlift, there should be no reason why you should not be doing them in the program.

Otherwise, Jim Wendler would have mentioned that in his book.

And there is really not much to explain.

You have a task at hand and you willingly chose to not execute it.

Solution 1 - Go a bit lighter than usual

As you may know, a lot of strength training principles revolve around sub-maximal training where you do not train close to failure.

However, you still get it a lot of volume and moderate intensity.

The same holds true for your accessory exercises.

If you believe 5 sets of 10 reps of deadlifting is too much, you have not seen anything yet.

There are programs that push you much harder with greater intensities.

You should count your blessings and be grateful that 5/3/1 is teaching both your mind and body on how to strength train properly.

With that said, you still need to overcome the mental side of deadlifting.

One option you could do is to go a bit lighter than usual.

Make sure you still have 5+ reps in the tank after each set.

That way, you are still getting the work in while following the program.

I would not drop the sets or the weight since you want to follow the program as closely as you can.

Anything else other than manipulating weight will be in direct violation of the program.

There is plenty of time for you to customize your program later.

Right now, follow 5/3/1 to the tee and steadily watch your progress.

Immobile hips

If your hip mobility sucks (rare), you need to work on it.

Daily stretching and constant moving would be key.

There are tons of videos out there but I believe this one can get the job done if you are on a time crunch.

It may be labeled hip stretches for the squat but you use a lot of the similar muscles to deadlift as well.

So, while you work on stretching your hips and hamstrings, you should consider these deadlift alternatives in the meantime

Solution 1 - Romanian deadlifts

Without really touching the ground, you do romanian deadlifts to still work out your entire posterior chain.

Not exactly as effective as regular barbell deadlift but to the common gym-goer, they may not even know the difference between the two.

Work on your romanian deadlifts until you can deadlift off the floor.

Solution 2 - Deadlift off elevated blocks

Depending on your gym setup, you will need to deadlift off blocks, plates, something that elevates the deadlift so that you do not need to reach the standard height for the deadlift, 9” off the ground.

Of course, week by week, you will need to aim to gradually lower these blocks so that you can do a proper deadlift off the floor.

This is a great way to still work on deadlifting.

Solution 3 (Not ideal if you are weak at the bottom of the deadlift) - Rack pulls

Not all accessories are created equal and you only have so much energy during your workout.

You could opt to do rack pulls.

These are typically done above the knee to lockout. 

However, you could make them even lower and it may be a similar or exactly like solution 2, deadlifting off the elevated blocks.

You can load these up pretty heavy and would be great to get more volume into your workout.

However, in terms of carryover to the actual deadlift, you may not see any traction especially if you have trouble breaking the deadlift off the floor.

I would know because I have incorporated these movements for a certain period of time and I did not feel that my deadlift improved.

At the same time, they are great for overloading and can really prime your body to lift some really heavy weights.

So, it really depends how much of a weakness you have at the bottom of the deadlift.

Again, this is a good deadlift accessory movement, not so much as a deadlift alternative. 

And it also varies greatly from lifter to lifter as well.

I am not recovering from 5/3/1 BBB deadlift volume

First, make sure you are following the program.

There are plenty of variations that Jim Wendler offers you and different things you can try.

It is definitely not a “boring” program and if you cannot adapt and realize that your training is going sideways without referring to the book, who else is there to blame but yourself?

But as far as not recovering from a 5x10 deadlift accessory day, there is really no concrete answer on what to do.

You need to figure a plan to fix your issue without violating the principles discussed in the book.

Whether this means re-evaluating your training maxes, switching to another variation, etc, you should make your own judgment and do what you think is best.

Deadlift alternative for a bad lower back

If you are not deadlifting, you are not doing 5/3/1 and you should pick a different program.

Know that the human body is capable of doing a lot of things for a long period of time.

You should not be having a bad lower back at all, especially if you are younger than 60.

But with that said, you need to decide what is more important for you:

  • Making optimal strength progress to take control of your life
  • Being a cry baby and letting life control you

I am not trying to be insensitive but strength training may not be for everyone.

Gaining strength and mastery of your body might be too big of a challenge for you.

You may be better off just making excuses and to stay crippled for life.

If you are willing to make a change, here is what you should do:

  • Start to work on your weaknesses. See if you can mimic the deadlift motion pain-free.

If you are not able to, figure out what motions are giving you pain and troubleshoot that.

Find out different exercises you could do to mobilize any areas that might be causing your stiffness and immobility.

There is a ton to say about this topic but it is impossible to say exactly what for everybody.

So, you make your best judgment for yourself.

Just remember to never do anything that causes you sharp, acute pain.


I just scratched the on this topic about searching for a deadlift alternative in 5/3/1.

And if you do not have the book, you are doing yourself an injustice.

There are explanations on top of explanations along with solutions within the 5/3/1 Forever book so that you never hit a plateau.

You should not be replacing any of the 4 main lifts as well so make sure you educate yourself.

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